Quake-hit Longtoushan Town Photo: Zhang Han
The "golden 72 hours" for saving lives has ticked away since a 6.5 magnitude earthquake rattled Ludian County in southwestern China's Yunnan Province on August 3. Sino-US.com reporters have rushed to the epicenter where they witnessed the post-disaster rescue and the sufferings of the quake-affected victims.
PLA soldiers: Sleeping in excavator buckets
10 pm, August 6:
Sino-US.com reporters learned from a press conference that more than 600 buried people have been rescued with 437 bodies excavated from the debris during the "72 golden hours" for saving lives after the earthquake. 2,399 people, who were injured in the earthquake, have been saved (by PLA soldiers), according to the press conference.
"The number of people who were rescued is surprisingly large, even larger than those in any other earthquakes ever," said geology professor Xu Qiang, who has conducted many investigations and surveys on earthquakes in southwestern China.
He said that the "golden time" for saving lives is 72 hours, during which the rescued people have a survival rate of 90 percent on the first day, and 50-60 percent on the second day and 20-30 percent on the third day.
A PLA soldier sits in an excavator bucket. Photo: Zhang Han
"Many rescue teams from home and abroad have reached the epicenter, but have not rescued any living people so far. But the response of PLA soldiers was quick," said Xu, who works in the National Lab of Geo-hazard Prevention and Geo-environment Protection at the Chengdu University of Technology.
After days of search and rescue, the dog-tired PLA soldiers, who were stained with clay and whose fingernails were grimed with dirt, laid down casually anywhere for a rest, with some even sleeping in the excavator buckets.
'I cannot leave my ancestral house'
The earthquake in Ludian County triggered several landslides which blocked Niulan River and thus created barrier lakes. The water level of the barrier lakes was increasing, seriously threatening thousands of people living in the nearby villages. The local government has evacuated those people overnight.
In Lijiashan Village, Ludian County, an old villager was reluctant to leave his wooden ancestral house, saying "I have lived in it for more than 60 years, and I cannot leave my ancestral house."
Asking his son to bring him a tent, which can offer him a shelter in case of an aftershock, the old man said that he must keep the ancestral house in his sight because it made him reassured.
A family cooks food near a damaged house after the earthquake. Photo: Zhang Han
Lucky wild-pepper planter
Despite the fact that many people have left their wooden houses which collapsed during the earthquake, Sino-US.com reporters found that a family stayed on in an unknown village in Longshan Town. They were basking the wild peppers they planted near their dilapidated house, which stood out in the heap of rubble.
"Our family has planted wild pepper for many generations. We will continue to plant it next year (after the reconstruction)," the head of the household told the reporters, adding that he was lucky to fend off death because he was picking wild peppers in the open air when the earthquake hit his village.
In many villages in Longshan Town, people live off planting wild pepper and potato. Many villagers were picking wild peppers when the earthquake hit the town, which helped them survive the disaster.
'We can eat noodles cooked in clean water'
Soldiers who are in the frontline of the rescue confirmed to Sino-US.com reporters that they literally ate instant noodles cooked in muddy water, but said that mud-free noodles were available now.
"I ate the noodle cooked in muddy water that was sterilized," a soldier told the reporters. "We could not do anything about it in the time of emergency."
Quake-affected villagers eat instant noodles. Photo: Zhang Han
Currently, the supply of tap water has resumed. "Please tell the people (who care about us), we are fine now. And we can eat noodles cooked in clean water," a soldier told the reporters, with a shy smile on his face.
On August 4, Sino-US.com reporters saw many volunteer rescuers were on their way to the epicenter, which instead blocked the roads used for transporting the relief supplies.
In talks with volunteers from some famous charitable organizations, the reporters found that many of them were not qualified because of lack of professional knowledge and equipment.
A villager told the reporters that he was never taught how to pitch a tent and protect himself from an aftershock.
(The article is translated and edited by Ding Yi)